Monday, March 28, 2011

Ground Control to Major…Character

Ever feel like your MC (main character, I know, I know) is floating and you can’t seem to pin him or her down?

My most tried and true resolution: Ask questions.

Here’s a list of questions that will help to reveal more about your character’s inner life…

  • How would your MC react when everyone in a crowded restaurant begins to sing Happy Birthday to them?

  • Your MC finds $1,000 in the street, what would he do with the money and if he chose to spend it, what would he spend it on?

  • Does your MC have any strange sleeping habits? Does sleep come easy for her?

  • What terrifies your MC (not just frightens, not just scares…terrifies)?

  • Your MC wins a choice of a free vacation to either camp or beach it, which does she choose?

  • The duo from What Not to Wear visits your MC, what would they say is wrong with his style of dress?

  • What’s the most rebellious thing your MC has ever done or would ever do?

  • Someone spills an entire Coke on your MC at a baseball game by accident, how does your MC respond?

  • How does your MC react after witnessing a violent crime?

  • What’s the best memory your MC has? The worst?

  • Who is the one person your MC trusts most?

Noah Lukeman asks hundreds of questions like these in his book, The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life.

What’s one of your best ways of grounding your characters when they begin to slip out of your grasp? (As a bonus, answer one of these questions for you or your MC.)

*photos by flickr


  1. I love this, Wendy! I just left a comment on Rachelle Gardner's post about my struggles with going even deeper with a character. Her list along with this post has given me a lot to think about. Thanks!! And happy Monday!

  2. These are great questions to ask to help think about a character and their reactions. Thanks!

  3. Great questions, Wendy. I'll answer the first one. My hubby and daughter arranged a surprise birthday party for me one year. When I walked in the restaurant and saw my friends, I cried.

    Yup! I'm a weepy woman who is moved to tears for all manner of reasons. In fact, when I first see you in St. Louis this September, I'll probably turn into a fountain. You've been warned. =)

  4. Love the pictures! The last one is reminiscent of my female MC, her head always seems to be in the clouds. She loves fantasy. if she found $1000 on the street she would by a cup of coffee and find someone to help. Goody two shoes!

  5. I fill out a character questionnaire for mine too. Always amazes me some of the answers my MC's come up with--it's like they really honestly do exist. But how?

  6. Fun questions. My list of questions to ask my characters is growing very quickly with all these wonderful ideas...I need a new way to keep them all organized. :)

  7. I think these are awesome questions to ask ourselves! Now I'm going to have that song locked in my head all day long... *sigh*

  8. Great questions, Wendy! When my characters start getting out of line, I go back to the interview I gave them before I began writing. This reminds me of their goals and motivations, and helps me make them more realistic. Thank you! :)

  9. Love this list! I do have a few MCs floating around that refuse to reveal themselves. It's frustrating, because they tell me just enough to be rabid for the story. >.<

  10. Love these. What a great compliment to Rachelle's post today.

  11. It's been so long since I hung with my main character (editing an old one right now) I've forgotten, but GREAT questions when we finally meet up again!

  12. I'm so guilty of not asking questions like these. I really need to do so.

    Hope all is well, Wendy!

  13. Oh, I need to get that book. I love those questions. Thanks!

  14. Great questions! Thank you, and thanks for the info on the book.

  15. Oh, these are wonderful! Strangge sleeping habits - smile :) A quirkier list than the character interview questions I'm familiar with from other lists. I have one of Lukeman's books but not this one... might have to get this one too!

  16. Hi Wendy -

    Excellent questions! I'm reading Lukeman's, "The First Five Pages." I'll have to pick this one up.

    Susan :)

  17. Love this list! It's very helpful. I haven't asked many questions of my character, may be why I don't understand how she would always react. I know she's not above going to a party with alcohol (she's 17), but she wouldn't do anything vile or mean.

    If my main character found $1000 she would turn it in without batting an eye.

    If Clinton and Stacey from What Not To Wear met up with Vanessa, they'd take notes and ask her to help them.

    I really want to know what will terrify Vanessa, well outside of the psycho chic who wants her dead...

    Thanks for the help. Ideas are beginning to swirl.

  18. Great questions. Thank you. I will have to think on those.

  19. This is a great list! I tend to write my characters into corners... so there's no where else for them to go. These ideas will help!!

  20. Great questions to keep your MC grounded. When I interview authors on my blog, I like to "interview" their book's MC instead of the author themselves. It's kind of fun to get inside their mind.

  21. Those are wonderful questions to get into the head of any character! Nice!

  22. Excellent list! And I love the photos.

    Best memory: spending summers with my grandparents.

    Worst: At age ten, hearing my daddy had died.

    Best future hope: Seeing them all again, dancing with them and Jesus at THE party!!!


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